Matcha green tea powder – the ultimate guide

What is Matcha green tea powder?

Matcha is a special type of green tea for many reasons.
First of all, its appearance already strikes a difference, compared to normal loose-leaf teas, since instead of having actual leaves; Matcha is served in powder form.
The second important note to point out about Matcha, is that it is highly packed with nutritional compounds. The leaves are grinded into powder form soon after plucking, once the veins are removed, but more on this later.
Matcha green tea also has a distinctive taste, which most people would characterize as bittersweet with vegetal flavor. The taste can differ based on the grade of tea used, the area the tea was grown and some other factors.
The famous Japanese green tea powder is also unique in the sense that good quality is hard to come by, and unfortunately it is also on the higher end of the price tier.
The reason for that is the limited supply of green tea powder. The best quality Matcha tea is made in Japan, however less than 1% of Japan’s overall production is Matcha tea.
Why does the best quality Matcha green tea come from Japan you might ask? After the infographic below keep on reading to find out, with the rest of the article!

Matcha green tea powder infographic
Matcha green tea powder infographic

The origins of the Japanese green tea powder

It is said that tea in Japan was introduced in the 12th century by a Buddhist monk called Eisai. He brought the tea seeds to the country, planted them and started spreading the word about tea and its beneficial health aspects.
At the time, making tea powder was a popular method in China and as such, this preparation method started spreading in Japan as well. Although the Chinese more or less forgo this way of tea production, the Japanese kept it and elevated it to new heights.
Through the centuries monks kept using tea to enhance their meditational exercises, favoring the drink for its calming effects.
As tea was getting more popular and more widespread in the country, tea masters appeared on the scene, which greatly contributed to embedding tea in the culture. One such master was Sen No Rikyu, who codified the famous tea ritual, known as ‘Chanoyu’.

He emphasized that the tea ritual is about calmness and respect, bringing people closer to nature and harmony. The Japanese tea ritual is a beautiful celebration of the extraordinary in the simple, ordinary things.
For this famous tea ritual, of course, Matcha tea powder was and still being used.
Later in the 20th century, when scientific studies started to show the health benefits of green tea, the Japanese government also promoted the consumption green tea in the daily life, and green tea, especially Matcha tea, started being used in a variety of products like candy bars.

How Matcha green tea is produced?

Similarly to other loose-leaf green teas, Matcha is also produced from the camellia sinensis plant. The growing and processing of the leaves however differ at certain points.
The tea plants, which are used to create Matcha, are shaded in the last part of the growth process, just before being picked. The shading happens usually for 3 weeks. This shading process increases amino-acid production in the leaves, particularly theanine.
The tea produced in this way is called ‘gyokuro’ tea and it is actually itself a famous variety of green tea from Japan and also consumed in loose-leaf tea form.
Once the tea leaves are picked they go through the usual Japanese tea processing, meaning they get steamed, dried and afterwards processed by removing the veins.
The tea created in this way called ‘tencha’, which then sorted into different grades and as the final step, it gets grinded into fine powder form.
One of the most highly regarded tea producing regions in Japan is in the Kyoto prefecture, called the Uji region, where high quality teas are produced and is also knows for Gyokuro and Matcha production.
Another region, where they produce the green tea powder is the Nishio region in the Aichi prefecture, where actually the largest amounts of Matcha tea is produced.

How to brew green tea powder?

Matcha green tea powder, similarly to other teas, can be brewed in a fancy or more complicated way or can be brewed in a more ‘everyday’ way.
Simply put, brewing matcha can simply done in the following steps:
Step 1 (optional): Pre-warm the bowl or cup you will be using by leaving the just boiled water in it for 20-30 seconds. Wipe the cup dry after pouring the water out.
Step 2 (optional): Use a fine strainer to put the matcha green tea powder in the cup. This steps helps in making the brew smoother by helping to avoid bigger chunks of matcha powder
Step 3: Pour water over the green tea powder, which is around 80 degrees Celsius.
Step 4: Start using your matcha whisker to dissolve the powder. Some suggest to work from the bottom to the top, some from the inside to the outside of the bowl, some say use zig-zag motions. Unless you are practicing to master the tea ceremony, it doesn’t really matter. We suggest to find your own way 🙂
When the drink starts to become foamy you can stop the stirring.
Step 5: Enjoy your tea from the bowl/cup!

Don’t let the unknown scare you, brewing Matcha tea is not that difficult and with a little practice you can also master it.

So far, if you followed the parts of this article, you read about the origins of this great green tea, how is it produced and how can you brew a delicious cup yourself.
Now you might ask, this is all great, what’s all the fuss about this tea, why is it getting such a big hype?
Well, it has to do a lot with its apparent health benefits, including its help for better meditation, a great energy source and high antioxidant count.
We say ‘apparent’ health benefits, because lot of website like to over emphasize the health benefits of loose-leaf tea.
We on the other hand, while we are truly fans of tea, like to read more scientific research and findings and build on our own experience, before blindly throwing some health benefits in the article.
Let’s see what type of source can we find about the health benefits of Matcha out there.

Matcha green tea benefits

The health benefits of Matcha green tea has been researched extensively in recent years together with other green and black teas in general.
There has been lot of different claims on countless websites regarding the health benefits of Matcha ranging from being a weight loss wonder, being good to prevent cancer, providing boost of energy etc.
In the following paragraphs you can see which of these claims are actually true! Based on actual research.
Before getting to the actual research however,it is important to understand a few things about the compounds found in tea and in Matcha in particularly…

Amazing anti-oxidants

Anti-oxidants is a great health buzz-word, they have been promoted in ample amounts across the media.
So what are anti-oxidants and what are they doing?
According to the ‘Tea and Antioxdant properties’ document on the TeaAdvisoryPanel, as part of the natural oxidization process, naturally free radicals occur in the body. These molecules are not stable anymore, and it is generally believed that these free radicals promote the creation of several diseases such as cancer and heart problems.
Not good…
However antioxidants can help! As the name implies they can inhibit or slow the oxidation process in the body, thus preventing the creation of free-radicals.
Lucky for us, tea contains high amounts of flavonoids and catechins (type of flavonoid in green tea), which demonstrate anti-oxidant properties and they are generally categorized as polyphenols
Does matcha green tea have antioxidants, you might ask? Matcha specifically contains high amounts of EGCG a type of polyphenol. EGCG are known to be the ‘superstar’ anti-oxidants and has been shown to have several potential positive effects on health. More on this later…
So how what levels of anti-oxidants and amino acids can be found in tea?

  1. One study found that the radical scavenging capacity of one or two cups of tea, made from the camellia sinensis plant, is equivalent to that of five portions of fruit, 12 portions of vegetables or 400mg of Vitamin C. (Du Toit R, et al, 2001)
  2. Another study found that the amount of EGCG is at least 3 times higher than other green teas with high amount of EGCG and in some cases even 137 times higher… (Christopher R. Anderton, David J. Weiss, 2003)
  3. It contains around 6% polyphenols and almost 4% caffeine. Per 100 gram of dried tealeaves, matcha contains more than 2000 mg theanine and more than 5500 mg of free amino acids.  (Chi Chu, Juneja, Kim and Yamamoto, 1997)

In the graph below you can see the anti-oxidant content of matcha green tea, compared to other fruits and vegetables.

Amount of antioxidants in matcha green tea
Amount of antioxidants in matcha green tea

Source: Wu, Beecher, Holden, Haytowitz, Gebhardt, Prior (2004).

 

So this is all great… tea contains many different type of compounds, which have antioxidant properties.
Among green teas, Matcha green tea powder is specifically rich in some type of antioxidants, such as EGCG and also contains L-theanine (a type of amino acid) in ample amounts.
Why is this great again? Let’s dig in the research available…
In a study conducted by Chi Chu, Juneja, Kim and Yamamoto (1997), it was shown that the daily intake of polyphenols, by drinking, a few cups of tea, can help in decreasing blood pressure and increasing HDL- cholesterol, which is also known as good-cholesterol.
According to Koo and Noh (2007), green tea may be used as a therapeutic agent for lipid-lowering (absorption of dietary fat, cholesterol etc.) and may help in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Another Japanese study, conducted by Kuriyama, Shimazu, Ohmori, (2006), found that drinking green tea regularly helped in lowering heart disease risk in Japanese males and females. The study was conducted over an 11 year long period.

Some research is also present on the effects of green tea on dental health. One such is from Bassiouny, Kuroda and Yang (2008), who compared the erosive effect of green tea and black tea to that of water, which has no erosion potential and announced tea as a highly recommended liquid for daily consumption.
There has also been some research made regarding the potential use of green tea to enhance your weight loss efforts. One study, conducted by Dulloo, Duret, Rohrer, Girardier, Mensi, Fathi, Chantre and Vandermander (1999), found that green tea extract increased the 24-hour energy expenditure and fat oxidation in the body.
The study was set up, together with a placebo (fake) extract, so it could be compared to the effects of the real green tea extract. In the end of the study it was found, that compared to the placebo, the real green tea extract significantly increased energy expenditure.
Yet another study from Nagao, Komine, Soga, Meguro, Hase, Tanaka, Tokimitsu (2005) found that the daily consumption of a tea, which was rich in catechins (690mg) lead to significantly lower body weight, BMI and body fat mass compared to the control group who consumed tea with only 22mg catechins.
Another study found similar results with a sample of 60 Thai people. Over a 12 week period, they have found that the people who took green tea over the people who took the placebo had a significant different in the amount of weight loss consequently in the 4th, 8th and 12th week of the study with 2.7, 5.1 and 3.3 kilograms. (Auvichayapat, Prapochanung, Tunkamnerdthai, Sripanidkulchai, Auvichayapat, Thinkhamrop, Kunhasura, Wongpratoom, Sinawat, Honprapas, 2008)
There are also other studies however, which did not find a significant difference between green tea consumption and weight loss according to Jurgens, Whelan, Killian, Doucette, Kirk and Foy (2012). They compared 15 different weight loss studies, which had duration of at least 12 weeks to summarize the effects. According to them, no significantly positive results where found.
Regarding cancer research, McLarty, L.H. Bigelow, Smith, Elmajian, Ankem, Cardelli (2009) found that tea polyphenols could help in reducing the progression of prostate cancer. Their study concluded that the use of EGCG can potentially help in the treatment of prevention of prostate cancer.
According to Thangapazham  et al. (2007), EGCG in tea, can help in preventing the spread of breast cancer together with the help of polyphenols.
Friedman (2007) found that in laboratory conditions, that polyphenols could destroy cancer cells. However since this research was done in laboratory, that does not mean that the same can be concluded for real-life situation involving humans.
In a study involving more than 12000 Japanese people, over a multiple year study, Suzuki, Yorifuji, Takao, Komatsu,  Sugiyama, Ohta, Ishikawa-Takata, Doi (2009), it was shown that people who were drinking 7 or more cups of green tea a day, compared to those who were drinking 1 cup or less, may had a reduced risk of dying from heart disease with more than 70% and dying from colorectal cancer with 31%!
The Tea and Cancer document from the Tea Advisory Panel’s website, can yet again give a good summary of some of the research done on cancer research related to green tea.
According to this summary, the research is inconclusive; some founding positive effects and some do not. In-vitro and animal studies have found the above-mentioned polyphenols might be beneficial to use in the treatment and prevention of the cancer.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), reached the same conclusion in an article on their website, where they reviewed some 50+ research papers on the relation of cancer research and the compounds found in tea. Although the last review on the article was in 2010, thus it might be interesting to look at the more recent research publications as well. Article can be found under this link: Summary of green tea and cancer prevention research

Research regarding the effects of green tea in the treatment and prevention of cancer is probably inconclusive, due to the difficulty of controlling for other factors, such as a persons lifestyle choices, including diet, sport activities and habits such as smoking or drinking.
These of course all influence one’s state of health and such also the outcome of the studies.
Not only lifestyle choices, but simply the way how the studies prepare tea can also cause a difference. Think about the amount of tea used, the water temperature, the length of steeping and the type of tea. These all influence the amount of the different compounds in the liquid.
On the negative side, not much research is present on the possible negative effects of green tea.
One topic, which has received attention, however is the effects of green tea on the thyroid. According to Chandra and De (2013), catechins (abundant in green tea) can disrupt thyroid function in higher amounts. Definitely important to keep in mind, if you have problems with your thyroid, check with your doctor before drinking green tea in bigger amounts!

Matcha green tea and L-theanine

Another compound abundant in Matcha green tea is L-theanine and it was found that it has a good interaction with caffeine. According to Bryan (2007), it can be concluded based on multiple studies that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine in green teas can mitigate the effects of caffeine, and instead of having the typical crash of energy after caffeine consumption, a more balanced state can be achieved with higher focus of attention.

According to Juneja, Chi Chu, Okubo, Nagato, Yokogoshi (1999), L-theanine was shown to have relaxational effects and acts as a neurotransmitter. In rats, it was shown to decrease blood pressure and in human volunteers the intake of theanine was observed to increase the generation of alpha-waves in the brain, which increases relaxation.
Yet another study looked at the effects of theanine in mice, who were subjected to psychosocial stress (Unno K, Iguchi K, Tanida N, Fujitani K, Takamori N, Yamamoto H, Ishii N, Nagano H, Nagashima T, Hara A, Shimoi K, Hoshino M., 2013). It was shown that giving mice theanine suppressed this stress and taking it on daily basis provided additional benefits.
Interesting that without scientific research Buddhist monks in Japan already realized hundreds of years ago, that Matcha tea can help in improving their focus and used it as an enhancer for their meditation.
This is also contributed to the use of Matcha tea in the above-mentioned famous Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha tea and recipes

After reading about all the potential benefits, you might wonder how can you enjoy this green tea powder?
The cool things about Matcha is that not only you can brew it the traditional way, by pouring hot water on it, but you can also use it to prepare some nice other drinks such as Latte or a healthy Smoothie.
How to do that you might ask? Simple, just follow these recipes here below 😉
If you are somewhat the experimental type, you can also try to modify the recipes to your own liking.

How to prepare a delicious Matcha Latte in 5 simple steps?

What you will need:

– A half a teaspoon of Match green tea powder
– Some hot water
– ¾ of a cup of milk
– A matcha whisk or machine

Preparing the Latte is simple:

– Put some Matcha green tea powder in your cup.
– Use a little hot water and your matcha whisk, just to get the powder dissolved in a nice, somewhat thick way.
– Boil the milk
– Poor the boiled milk over your stirred Matcha powder and mix it up.
– Make nice Latte art optionally 🙂

Oh and of course…Enjoy! 🙂
If you are more the video type of person, here you can see a simple way to make it, with machine.

 

…and here is a variant with some additional ingredients, if you don’t have a machine.

How to prepare a great tasting Matcha Smoothie?

It’s rather easy to create a matcha smoothie actually. There are of course different varieties, but you can start the simple ones.
– Half a glass or cup of yoghurt (depending on the amount you want to make)
– One or two teaspoon(s) of matcha (depending on the amount you prepare)
– One tablespoons of sugar (more if you like it more sweet, or you can add other sweetener as well)
– A good amount of ice cubes (half a glass maybe)

The best here is to use a simple blender. Just put everything together in a blender and mix them together.
There you go! It doesn’t get easier than this! 🙂

For the end: Matcha green tea powder in everything!

Around the world, but especially in Japan, matcha is used in a wide variety of products, from ice cream to Kit-Kat chocolate. We collected some of the tasty looking examples as closing words.
Pocky sticks

These are made from Uji Matcha (you know from the above text, the high quality one), where the crunchy sticks are coated with soft chocolate for a great combo. It also smells like green tea!

Pocky matcha green tea
Pocky matcha green tea

Organic Green tea noodles

 

These are actually noodles made from wheat and buckwheat flour flavored with green tea powder.  Soba is a rather popular type of noodles in Japan, not thicker than sphagetti and used in various dishes, hot and cold. Nice way to add a special flavor to your Japanese dishes!
Matcha KitKat
That;s right, Matcha green tea flavored Kit-Kat. This is probably one of the more famous sweets example for the use of Matcha. You can even find it in the west now on Amazon if you are lucky!
On the contrary to Pocky sticks, not the green tea part is coated with chocolate, but the inner part is coated with green tea flavored chocolate!
But hey, they also make Red-bean sandwich, Strawberry cheesecake, and Soybean flavored KitKats, so Matcha is not even that weird yet…

Matcha powder flavoured kitkat
Matcha powder flavoured kitkat

Matcha flavored toothpaste

Yes, it exists. The description for the toothpaste says that the idea behind the Matcha flavored toothpaste is that the catechins in green tea can block the activity of the bacteria, which causes tooth decay. Whether it is true in this form or not, we sure would love to try it out!
Matcha flavored ice-cream

OK, this is not so special, ice-cream comes in quite the variety of flavors… It is however very yummi if you like the taste of Matcha, so why not try it!
With this recipe from YouTube, you can make one yourself!
Oreo Matcha Flavor

We left the best for last, of course Oreo also has a Matcha flavored variant. Apparently the bitter sweet taste of Matcha tea mixes great with the bitter taste of Oreos.
I hope you liked this article about Matcha. If it got you excited, than try Matcha yourself! You can find authentic Matcha from Kyoto in our webshop or check this cool summary of different brands of Matcha on this blog.

Happy tea times!
Istvan

 

References:

Du Toit R, et al (2001) Comparison of the antioxidant content of fruits, vegetables and teas measured as Vitamin C equivalents. Toxicology 166 (1-2): 63-9
Christopher R. Anderton, David J. Weiss (2003) Dtermination of catechins in matcha green tea by micellar electrokinetic chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A, Volume 1011 (1-2): 173-180.
Chi Chu, Juneja, Kim, & Yamamoto. 1997. Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea. Boca Raton, NY: CRC Press. 160 pages.
Bryan, Janet. 2007. Psychological Effects of Dietary Components of tea: caffeine and L- thenaine. Nutrition Reviews 66(2): 82-90.
Lekh Raj Juneja, Djong-Chi Chu, Tsutomu Okubo, Yukiko Nagato, Hidehiko Yokogoshi
Corrigendum to “L-theanine—a unique amino acid of green tea and its relaxation effect in humans”: [Trends in Food Science & Technology 10 (6–7) (1999) 199–204]
Trends in Food Science & TechnologyVolume 10, Issue 12December 1999Page 425

Unno K, Iguchi K, Tanida N, Fujitani K, Takamori N, Yamamoto H, Ishii N, Nagano H, Nagashima T, Hara A, Shimoi K, Hoshino M., 2013. Ingestion of theanine, an amino acid in tea, suppresses psychosocial stress in mice. Exp Physiol. 2013 Jan;98(1):290-303.
Abdul G Dulloo, Claudette Duret, Dorothee Rohrer, Lucien Girardier, Nouri Mensi, Marc Fathi, Philippe Chantre, Jacques Vandermander, 1999, Efficacy of a green tea extrat rich in catechin polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol 70, no. 6, 1040-1045
Jerry McLarty, , Rebecca L.H. Bigelow, Mylinh Smith, Don Elmajian, Murali Ankem, James A. Cardelli, 2009. “Tea Polyphenols Decrease Serum Levels of Prostate-Specific Antigen, Hepatocyte Growth Factor, and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Prostate Cancer Patients and Inhibit Production of Hepatocyte Growth Factor and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor In vitro.” Cancer Prevention Research, Published Online First on June 19, 2009.
DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-08-0167
E. Suzuki, T. Yorifuji, S. Takao, H. Komatsu,  M. Sugiyama, T. Ohta, K. Ishikawa-Takata, H. Doi, 2009. Green Tea Consumption and Mortality among Japanese Elderly People: The Prospective Shizuoka Elderly Cohort. Annals of Epidemiology, Volume 19, Issue 10, Pages 732-739.
Auvichayapat P, Prapochanung M, Tunkamnerdthai O, Sripanidkulchai BO, Auvichayapat N, Thinkhamrop B, Kunhasura S, Wongpratoom S, Sinawat S, Honprapas P., 2008. Effectiveness of green tea on weight reduction in obese Thais: A randomized, controlled trial. Physiol Behav. 93(3):486-91.
Green tea for weight loss and weight maintenance in overweight or obese adults.
Tannis M Jurgens, Anne Marie Whelan, Lara Killian, Steve Doucette, Sara Kirk, Elizabeth Foy. Editorial Group: Cochrane Metabolic and Endocrine Disorders Group. Published Online: 12 DEC 2012. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD008650.pub2/abstract

 

Thangapazham RL, Passi N, Maheshwari RK. Green tea polyphenol and epigallocatechin gallate induce apoptosis and Inhibit Invasion in human breast cancer cells. Cancer Biol Ther. 2007 Sep 1;6(12).
Kuriyama S, Shimazu T, Ohmori K, et al. Green tea consumption and mortality due to cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all causes in Japan: the Ohsaki study. JAMA. 2006; 296(10):1255-65.
Koo Sung I., Noh Sang K., 2007. Green tea as inhibitor of the intestinal absorption of lipids: potential mechanism for its lipid lowering effect. The Journal of nutritional biochemistry.
Bassiouny MA, Kuroda S, Yang J, 2008. Topographic and radiographic profile assessment of dental erosion. Part III: Effect of green and black tea on human dentition. General Dentistry. 56(5): 451-61.
T. Nagao, Y. Komine, S. Soga, S. Meguro, T. Hase, Y. Tanaka, I. Tokimitsu, 2005. Ingestion of a tea rich in catechins leads to a reduction in body fat and malondialdehyde-modified LDL in men. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 81(1): 122-129.
Friedman M, Mackey BE, Kim HJ et al. 2007 Structure-activity relationships of tea compounds against human cancer cells. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 55: 243–53.
Wu X, Beecher GR, Holden JM, Haytowitz DB, Gebhardt SE, Prior RL, 2004. Lipophilic and hydrophilic antioxidant capacities of common foods in the United States. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 16:52(12): 4026-37
Chandra, Amar K, De Neela, 2013. Catechin induced modulation in the activities of thyroid hormone synthesizing enzymes leading to hypothyroidism. Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry. 374 (1): 37-48
National Cancer Institution, Green tea and cancer research

Tea Advisory Panel, Tea related research summaries: http://www.teaadvisorypanel.com

http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/blogs/the-health-benefits-of-matcha-tea

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